Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada statistics show that 404,165 individuals were issued study permits in 2019, an increase of almost 50,000 on the previous year. In 2018, 355,100 new study permits were issued.
Although total figures for the 2019 student population are yet to be released, this new data indicates that the entire international student population in Canada now exceeds 600,000, according to one analyst.
“Diversification of source countries is absolutely a priority”
The statistics reveal that 139,740 Indian students were issued study permits in 2019 – up from 107,175 in 2018 – and Indian citizens represent 35% of all 2019 new study permits.
The second biggest cohort came from China with 84,710 permits, marking a decrease on 2018 figures where 85,165 Chinese students were given study permits.
Iran (+39% to 9,795), Nigeria (+16% to 7,585), France (+9% to 14,670) all showed increases of study permits becoming effective in 2019, compared with 2018.
Other countries represented in the top 10 such as South Korea, Brazil, the US and Japan have remained stable, while Vietnam decreased slightly on 2018 figures.
Rounding off the top 15, the Philippines, Mexico, Bangladesh, Colombia and Taiwan all saw increases, with new study permits for the Philippines notably increasing by 56% to a total of 6,365 in 2019.
In 2018, just 40% of active study permits in Canada were for university study – the rest for students at colleges, Quebec’s CEGEPs or at K-12 schools, Universities Canada highlighted.
Although the 2019 breakdown is not yet available, the organisation expects a similar division.
“With the caveat that these new numbers reflect the system as a whole, rather than just university enrolments, Canadian universities are pleased to see continued growth in the number of students choosing Canada as their study destination,” explained assistant director of International Relations at Universities Canada, Cindy McIntyre.
“Canada’s universities are always happy to see growth in enrolment of international students, but diversification of source countries is absolutely a priority in their internationalisation efforts.
“It’s also a priority for the Canadian government, who have introduced more funding to help diversify the source countries for international students in their recent International Education Strategy.”
Released in August 2019, one of the strategy’s objectives is to diversify source countries of inbound students.
According to CBIE, a number of initiatives have been created or enhanced to support the diversification of the international student population.
These include the Study Direct Stream which “allows students from certain countries to fast track the process for getting a study permit”, according to CBIE director of Knowledge Mobilisation Jacquelyn Hoult.
“Successful achievement of the diversification objectives for international education in Canada necessarily will and need to involve key sectors and institutions working collectively, including government at local, provincial and national levels, post-secondary institutions, and the business and not-for-profit sectors,” Hoult noted.
The latest statistics also indicate that provinces with major cities are continuing to be attractive to international students.
Ontario, including Toronto and Ottawa, remains the most popular province for students gaining new study permits with a total of 198,570 in 2019.
“Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have long been the highest receivers of international students, so this data is not surprising,” McIntyre explained.
“There are always concerns when one source market dominates the marketplace”
“Other provinces are increasing their marketing efforts and the new IES is placing a major focus on attracting more international students to regions where not as many have traditionally gone. But it will certainly take time before the impact of these measures is felt.”
Vice president of Partnerships at Camosun College in Victoria British Columbia, Geoff Wilmshurst, noted that the province has “seen steady international student growth” mainly due to coordinated efforts led by the British Columbia Centre for International Education.
“[A] factor that makes BC a strong destination of choice is our completely integrated credit transfer system which allows students to transfer from one institution to another almost seamlessly,” Wilmshurst told The PIE News.
“It is unique in the world and means that colleges, in particular, can promote degree programs in which they may only offer the first two years.”
Regarding diversifying the international student population, Camosun has seen strong results from countries such as Vietnam and Mexico, Wilmshurst identified.
“We are also making efforts to recruit students from countries that have not been traditional for Canada including the Philippines, which has been a strong immigration source country but not one that we have traditionally had many students,” he added.
“There are always concerns when one source market dominates the marketplace.”
A great deal of capacity exists in Canada’s higher education system, Wilmshurst continued, but “that capacity exists outside of the major population centres and in more rural settings”.
According to CBIE, the retention of international students and prospective residents is of “growing importance” for smaller urban centres – Atlantic Canada’s ‘Study and Stay’ program is one example of the efforts directed toward increasing retention rates of international students where they are most needed, Hoult highlighted.
“The challenge for Canada, in the long run, will be attracting students to these locations. Given that the quality of our education system is quite even across Canada international students would benefit from looking at these options,” Wilmshurst added.